As an Arab, I was inspired by the Iraqi elections. It took courage to stand up for freedom and democracy. The Iraqis clearly said, "We want to join the civilized world and stand against the terrorists." The elections have given hope to Lebanon, Egypt, and others throughout the region. A new era in Arab political life has begun.
I cannot help but compare what just happened in Iraq to all that Israel has accomplished over the decades. Despite terrorism and war, the Israelis have flourished, built a democracy, and even today long to live in peace with the Palestinians. They have struggled to survive in a sea of hostility, boycott, and terror. The Israelis obviously have much in common with the Iraqi voters, and with all Arabs who yearn for peace and democracy. Israel has survived in a part of the world that has no respect for individual rights and freedoms, a region with extremists who would rather see people dead than free. For over half a century, Israel was the Middle East's only counterexample. Just like the Iraqi voters, Israel must been seen as part of the inspiration for the new Middle East.
Unfortunately, there are still many in the West who think of themselves as progressive, liberal, or humanitarian, but who shamelessly call the jihadis "freedom fighters." These people are kidding themselves if they believe they are championing the underdog when they excuse the jihadis and refuse to call terrorism by its real name. Having accepted the arguments of the terrorists, they have lost the ability to recognize and celebrate true freedom fighters, like the voters in Iraq. Terrorists want to keep the Middle East backward and oppressive. They favor tyrants like the Mullahs of Iran. They want to keep Arab women in bondage and are fighting democracy at every turn.
We Arab Americans who want freedom and democracy in the Middle East are appalled by liberals and "progressives" who claim the jihadis have a just cause. To those liberals I say, "No! We are the freedom fighters. Bin Laden and Zarqawi and their followers are terrorists."
The jihadis are dishonorable. On a practical level, they hold to the same goals that oppressive Middle Eastern despots have always pursued. Westerners have no idea how hellish life can be in today's Middle East. Jihadis target and kill children, women, civilian men, and leaders who sign peace treaties, like President Sadat. They shamelessly wave the Quran and recite verses while beheading the innocent. They don't care if their atrocities smear the reputation of Islam, a religion they claim to love. They've no intention to ever make peace with Israel or respect Christians, Kurds, Jews, Sufis, or anyone who doesn't think like they do.
Bin Laden himself wants to subdue the world, especially America. His bloody acolytes follow him blindly, and will not allow anything to stand in their way, not even the safety of their own children. Like the communists before them, the jihadis believe the ideal state lies in the future, so no existing Muslim country is pure enough to satisfy them. Even Saudi Arabia, which follows the Shari'a, isn't Muslim enough. Is it any wonder that the communists on U.S. campuses are all pro-jihadi? The years of indoctrination by Mullahs and dictators have turned many Arabs into robots for terror, stumbling after the mirage of a perfect Islamic state. To them, the mere existence of the non-Muslim world is an obstacle on the path to utopia.
Western liberals must recognize the budding aspirations of the real Arab freedom fighters. These are the people who stand for democracy, respect for minorities, wish for peace with Israel, and desire to join the civilized world in mutual respect. They are the Arabs and Muslims who are speaking for peace and are, therefore, jailed in places like Syria, Iran, and Bangladesh.
We Arab democrats are the true freedom fighters. We are the voters in Iraq. We are the ones denouncing the stoning of Muslim women, and the lashings, torture, and cruelties still common in the greater Middle East. We are fighting poverty in oil-rich countries. We are struggling against the indoctrination of Arab children in hate, terror, and vengeance.
At a recent rally in Berkeley, a crowd of Arabs chanted, "Two, four, six, eight, we are martyrs, we can't wait!" Nearby, a group of American leftists were foolishly cheering them on. I wanted to shout at those Americans, you are on the wrong side! You are supporting the oppressors, not the oppressed. You need to see the new reality in the Middle East. Move beyond the sixties. The old causes you are backing are the very ones standing in the way. You have become part of the problem, not the solution. You are no longer progressive, but have buried yourselves under old arguments from days gone by. You need a revival.